Tips for dealing with difficult to manage behaviors in children: I have put together some tips that I have found helpful in working with students with challenging behaviors. This information comes primarily from my training at Mendota Mental Health Institute, training given by Paul White for the Madison Metropolitan School District, and from my experiences as a special education teacher. I feel that it is useful information and worth reviewing from time to time. If you have any questions about anything presented here, please let me know—thanks for taking the time to go through this… Melissa Myers, Teacher of Special Education & Reading Specialist Take care of yourself! v Engage in enjoyable or stressrelieving activities on a regular basis v Try to start fresh each day with a positive outlook v Keep a sense of humor! v Have a safe place to vent about frustrations (with a partner, with a friend, with a coworker during lunch etc.) v Work as a member of a team; don’t feel you have to take on everything by yourself! v Ask questions, pursue relevant training, and seek advice from coworkers Build a positive, professional relationship with the students v Build a rapport with the students you work with · Learn about the students: What they like, dislike? Who is important in their lives? What are they good at? etc. · Treat the students with respect · Encourage students to communicate needs and wants (in socially appropriate ways) · Take time to engage in rapport building and/or community building activities when possible, such as playing a quick game, reading a story together, icebreaker activities etc. v Go beyond labels (the smart one, the class clown, the ADD one) and get to know each student as an individual, it is important to see the child as a complex person with a variety of behaviors, talents, interests, and experiences v Focus on what the students can do, not what they cannot do We need to understand that many of the children’s negative behaviors result from fear of failure, feelings of inadequacy, lack of selfesteem or lack of necessary academic skills v Our job is to help these children learn to manage their emotions and behaviors in a socially appropriate way v We chose our occupations, they didn’t choose their backgrounds, disabilities or family circumstances v The behaviors these children display are not personal—we become the target of these behaviors because we work closely with these students, not necessarily because they are angry at us as individuals v We are the adult and a model of good behavior, we must always be professional and model that behavior which we expect from the students (for example, if we raise our voice or put the child down, we are then modeling that behavior and, in effect, condoning that behavior) We need to understand that true behavior change takes time v We need to recognize even the smallest of positive behavior changes v We need to give ourselves credit for the hard work we do every day! v We need to have high but realistic expectations for the students; they live up or down to what we expect of them Students notice the most subtle things about our interactions with them v Our body language and tone of voice affect the message students get from us (often more than what is said verbally) v We need to treat students with respect and dignity v We should never speak negatively about students or staff around other students When working with children who have difficulty managing their behavior, it is important to work to increase the child’s abilities to use appropriate social skills and behaviors. Following, are some tips on how to help students recognize and receive reinforcement for their positive behaviors. Increasing prosocial and positive behaviors v Catch students being good, and tell them exactly what they’re doing that is good. For example, “I really like the way you sat in your seat quietly during work time” or “You walked away when that student was bothering you, that was a good choice.” v Tell students up front, and very clearly, what is expected of them. For example, “When we go to the library, we need to use a whisper voice and stay with our class” v Foreshadow let the student know what is coming next (especially if there are changes in their normal schedule). For example, “In five minutes we are going to clean up and move on to reading, after reading, it will be time for lunch,” or “There is a school assembly today, so we will not have music class today.” It might be beneficial to start each day by reviewing that day’s schedule with the student. v Give the student frequent encouragement or feedback on how she or he is doing. For example, “I can see that you are really working hard on this,” or “It seems like you might be a little frustrated, would you like some help?” v For many students there will be specific point programs or reinforcement programs, in addition to the above strategies, designed to increase positive behaviors Well, we all know that even with the best plans, strategies, and techniques, sometimes our students will have bad days or bad weeks for a variety of reasons, and we have to have strategies to deal with those times. Following are some suggestions for those tougher moments. Early warning behaviors and early intervention techniques v Become familiar with behaviors that indicate that the student is getting frustrated or is having difficulty, some of these behaviors might be · Increased talking · Increased silliness · Ignoring staff directions · Staring off into space or being offtask for long periods of time · Provoking peers · Increasingly disruptive behaviors such as vocal noises, banging on tables, etc. v Use techniques to intervene as early as possible: · Use a firm but calm tone of voice · Proximity control: move closer to the student when they show signs of agitation or signs that they are struggling · Use humor (keep it positive and ageappropriate) · Give words of encouragement · Ignore minor inappropriate behaviors, when possible · If the student is beginning to have difficulty following rules or directions, compliment other students that are following directions for example, “I really like the way John, Tanya, and Tammy are following my directions to work quietly.” · Remind the student of upcoming activities that might be more enjoyable or interesting for example, “I know math is really tough, but just 15 more minutes and it will be time for art.” · When possible, offer the student a break—taking a short walk, going outside for 10 minutes with support staff, or reading a favorite book for several minutes. A break might be taken in the general education classroom if possible or if it would be too disruptive, a break can be taken in another appropriate location · If possible, it might be helpful to take the student to a quiet or alternative location to complete the task or assignment—this might be done when the classroom is too noisy, too bright, or otherwise too stimulating for the student to work · A brief timeout or timeaway might be necessary if the student begins engaging in inappropriate behavior and is beginning to escalate despite other, less restrictive interventions—this should be done according to student’s behavior program. If you are unsure, consult with classroom teacher, casemanager, school counselor or principal. · Give students acceptable ways to cope with being fidgety or needing to move around a lot—such as letting them get up and take short walks, giving them a job to do that involves movement, or giving them something to hold like a stress ball · Avoid touching the student unless you know that this is calming or helpful to the student When everything has failed or gone wrong. (Which hopefully won’t happen, but our job demands we prepare for this scenario) Student in crisis In most cases, students with a history or dangerous, aggressive, selfabusive, or outof control behaviors will already have some type of behavior or crisis plan in place. Each plan is unique so it is important to be familiar with the behavior/crisis plans of the students you work with. If you have any questions or concerns consult with the case manager, school counselor or other relevant staff as soon as possible and preferably before any crisis occurs. If a student becomes violent or dangerous to his/herself or to others, and there is no plan in place, call other staff such as the casemanager (EBD teacher), a school crisis team, fellow teachers or staff for immediate assistance. v Move other students to a safer location v Make sure you have access to an exit to a safer location v If possible to do so safely, move furniture and/other materials away from student (scissors, objects that can be thrown, valuable materials etc.) v Do not attempt to control student on your own unless absolutely necessary for reasons of student or staff safety. v Remember to breathe, in through the nose, out through the mouth—it sounds silly and like common sense, but it can help us remain calm in a crisis and it models a good calming technique for the student v Use a firm but unemotional tone of voice v Stay out of the immediate reach of the student if at all possible v If you feel unable to remain calm or feel unable to safely stay engaged with the student, and other staff are available, you may ask another staff to step in and take over There is a great deal of information about handling a crisis available, this is only a brief summary of some helpful suggestions. Thanks again for taking the time to go through this information!
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